Page 4 of 4
If software is the technology concept that's redefining enterprise video, services are the moneymaker driving new conversations for VARs. According to Wainhouse's Weinstein, many VARs offer maintenance and installation services for videoconferencing infrastructure, but standing up a managed services practices -- meaning everything from endpoint management to network monitoring and video integration -- is a far more advanced and lucrative approach to the market.
"Managed services aren't well-defined, so that's a very gelatinous offering, which makes it not a bad thing, but a challenging thing," he said. "But those who can do it can make a lot of money and get a lot of business. What channel partners have to do is recognize that support services beyond maintenance and warranty require work. But investing in a help desk and gaining the networking expertise to help clients solve these deeper problems is the thing. It's investing in people, procedures, processes and systems."
Among the major video solution providers that are investing heavily in managed video services is Dimension Data, which recently added help desk assistance, point-to-point videoconferencing and video conference bridging to its deep portfolio of Visual Communications managed services.
Like other VARs, Dimension Data is focusing less on the individual technologies and more on customer experience, said Scott Cruikshank, director of converged communications at the South Africa-based integrator giant. According to Dimension Data's customer research, about two-third of U.S. companies choose to manage their video systems on premise, but nearly half of those companies don't have firm plans in place to drive adoption by employees.
"The ROI is predicated upon usage and adoption," Cruikshank told CRN. "The technology has caught up with what users are looking for, which is making sure the end user can easily get it up and running."
"We have finally started to figure out that the experience and usability matters as much as the technology," said Wainhouse's Weinstein. "A lot of resellers aren't figuring that out yet -- because a lot of them are installers. They're just not looking at it from a business angle. The wise ones are."
Weinstein, like other researchers and long-time observers of the video channel, see VARs that can't go beyond basic resell and maintenance as being boxed out by the service providers -- who see video as a way to supplement what they can offer customers.
"We expect the service providers to have a much more significant role here in the future," Weinstein said. "That's both an opportunity and a threat for channel partners. It's a threat because they have significant sales capabilities and they can drive integration with services they're selling. But it's an opportunity for [VARs] to differentiate, too, because those network service providers don't have feet on the street with video savvy. The channel partners do."
"It's a survival thing for a lot of them," added Jon Arnold, principal of analyst firm J. Arnold & Associates, regarding the service providers. "They have to protect their customer base in whatever way they can, and video can generate some revenues to offset all the traditional landline money they're using. Some will partner with the resellers but they have their own house to take care of."
All in all, the potential for video solutions isn't anywhere near tapped out, VARs say. Rather, it's just getting exciting.
"It's still in its infancy -- there's still so little penetration relatively speaking," said IVCI's Bottger. "I mean, look, Skype got 600 million people signed up because it's a cloud-based service and you sign up and away you go. We have to take advantage of that ease."